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At last, an inaresting and appreciative, thoughtful Smile article on PopMatters. Notable quote:
There's so much poetry inherent in the idea of the child fathering the man (which I think actually stems from Wordsworth's poetry) that I've always regarded this song as a key moment in Wilson's musical and personal life: the moment he turned away from the surf/beach/youth formula of the Beach Boys and really found himself artistically. To first-time father Brian, as he was at the time, children represent the death of one's own youth, but also a reconciliation of sorts, of youth matured and defined, which observes, as though for the first time, the generosity of innocence in the child. It's an idea expressed slightly differently but with similar idea-power by Andy Partridge: "Now the son has died, the father can be born". It certainly lends a philosophical weight to the abstract poetry of the lyrics. Again, the child-child-child motif and sustained backing vocals render the song and the poetic movement complete.
The article misses the subtle point that though some of the tunes sound incredibly childish/naff, part of the album’s essence is to make music even kids can relate to in a way. The Song for Children, the fun of Barnyard, the whistles and vegetables, the chalk and numbers of recess hopscotch, the tear rolling down the cheek, even Fire. Kids can interface with this stuff emotionally. This makes Surf’s Up slightly more poignant, vis the thesis that this song expressly farewells Brian’s youth. It also misses the superior version of Heroes & Villains on the Hawthorne disc, which a colleague said sounded like 'being attacked by a choir singing a Beach Boys song.' The new album version, in trying to cover too many bases (and its less effective vocal mix) wavers in comparison. Also, it misses the fact that humour plays a decisive role in the sequencing — take the workshop sounds mending the broken heart in the third suite, which then segues effortlessly into the healthy Vega-Tables. It doesn’t always wedge so neatly, but listen again to Master Painter/Sunshine: the effect or context is somehow made bigger before effortlessly drawling into the up Cabin essence. Also, the article could’ve mentioned the unnecessary addition of Good Vibrations, which in retrospect smacks of hedge-betting and an insecurity that Smile itself might not be enough or simply too weird musically not to have at least one bona fide/tested hit.

I was also thinking of a new acid test for concept albums posed uncertainly on the classic/dud turnpike: the Smile Test. Method: consider whether the potential-classic album at hand would garner as much mystery, reputation and effect if it had been semi-abandoned, let out in beautiful fragments and speculated on by devoted fans as Smile did done do over the last 37 years. Does it have the reach and scope and mad virtuosity? Would it make you a believer?

Also, more than the mealy concept or rock opera albums of the 60s and 70s, Smile gives some confidence again for musical work on the grand/planned scale, for unified "big picture" works.

posted by rino breebaart  # 8:29 am
Gave it a few more listens on the weekend, and my love of it only increased. Brian's voice becomes a touching, effortful thing. Quite similar to the Pet Sounds concert - a whole new thing, like a cool Dad trying that extra bit harder to remind you he loves you. After he's lost his voice. Or something like that. The only weak link here is his singing on Surf's Up, which I find a little too lacking in the old phrasing, quite abrupt and jarring. The song is so strong, however, that it carries him. Oh, and of course Good Vibrations - but just think of it as an unnecessary bonus track, tacked on after the artist has shuffled off.

Nice touch quoting yourself and then arguing with yourself. And for that day you had the main story on the Popmatters website! I felt like I knew somebody famous.

As for whether it lives up too the hype, or if it's possible to listen with a clear head after years of myth - well, I want to put it on right now. It's full of good songs. And, most importantly, I'm not convincing myself I'm having a good time, or that I'm in the court of genius. It's immediate, desirous stuff. This isn't like picking up a Morrissey solo album and trying to convince yourself that it's as good as The Queen Is Dead. No effort on this listener's behalf. The thrills and the kisses are all here, and all I've gotta do is go home.

Time for a cigarette - started again.
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Alternatively, read about it at: The Slow Review or the long blog. Or even Nurture Health

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